The Cowboys are a little more than three weeks away until they head to Oxnard, California for training camp. For the first time in what seems like forever, the team is relatively healthy heading into camp. In recent years it seemed as if notable players were rehabbing from offseason surgeries, or were working back from lingering injuries from last season, OTA’s, or mandatory minicamp.
This year, there’s only one injury that we’re aware of that will keep a player out of parts of camp and that’s the broken foot that Maliek Collins suffered back in May. The other player who will be at training camp, but won’t be on the field for the first four games of the regular season is defensive tackle, David Irving. With both of the starting defensive tackles missing time this offseason, and the regular season, the Cowboys may want to look at some of the free agents still on the market to fill that void. The one notable name that is still hanging around on the free agent market, is former Giants and Colts defensive tackle, Johnathan Hankins.
Cowboys Nation is very familiar with the 6-foot-3, 320-lb interior lineman from his days in New York as a member of the Giants. Hankins was a constant thorn in the Dallas offense’s side with his domination against the run. Hankins is known for being one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the league using his massive frame and brutal strength to win at the point of attack, and take up space to allow other defensive players to flourish. Hankins, who was a second-round pick by the Giants in the 2013 NFL Draft, has missed 13 games in his career due to injury. For the position he plays, and the job he is asked to do, Hankins also has impressive sack numbers (12.0) for a prototypical nose tackle.
That’s where the issue comes in with the Cowboys offering Johnathan Hankins a contract. Rod Marinelli, and the Cowboys’ front office, has completely ignored the nose tackle position for years in Dallas. Instead of going after big names or spending high-draft picks on nose tackles, the Cowboys have instead settled for guys released at the roster cutdown, undrafted free agents, or castoffs from other teams. But, they are in a situation where both of their starters have issues, missing time at training camp in Collins case, and missing the first four games of the season in Irving’s case. Could that potentially change their mind?
Plenty of people are asking the same question I’m sure you are - “why is Hankins still a free agent”. Alex Chassen of Land-Grant Holy Land wrote a very interesting article trying to piece answers to this question together:
Part of the concern with signing Hankins last offseason was his price tag. Originally asking for more than $10 million per year, the DT settled for just shy of that when he signed with the Colts. Just a year later, his asking price is just a little lower, around $8 million per season. That’s still a hefty cost for someone who finished the 2015 season on IR and has battled injuries throughout his career.
The Colts certainly didn’t do Hankins any favors either, releasing him a couple days after the opening of free agency. Teams didn’t know he’d be available and some had already moved forward with signing other high-demand players. Once cap space becomes a concern, teams start tightening their wallets, meaning a tougher time for Hankins as he looks for a new roster spot.
Both of these quotes were very interesting. The first, seems like a problem Hankins needs to work out and understand that he’s maybe not going to demand the kind of money he and his agent thinks he deserves. The second, is something that Cowboys fans are familiar with due to the situation the Cowboys put Dez Bryant in.
This late in the offseason, the Cowboys would be wise to bring in Johnathan Hankins for a visit, maybe see if he’ll take a little less money, and don’t let the 6-foot-3, 320-lb tackle leave the building. With plenty of questions surrounding the interior of the Cowboys defensive line, signing a 26-year-old DT with 74 tackles and five sacks over the last three seasons would be a signing that could plug a big hole in the defense.